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Aspergers Syndrome Children And Motivation
Aspergers Syndrome children respond best when their motivation level is high; when the answer to the question "What's in it for me?" is something an Asperger child most wants or desires. Children with Aspergers Syndrome never really make the leap from instant gratification to internal motivation or drive, such as self-satisfaction in a job well done, or pride in their ability to face a challenging situation. Aspergers Syndrome children are simply wired differently emotionally, and parents and educators soon come to realise that motivation to attempt or complete tasks is closely linked to perceived personal gain or reward for the child.
For Asperger children to achieve and keep on achieving, the possibility of personal reward must be present as a motivator. Often this reward revolves around the special interest of the Asperger child.
So how do we achieve a state of constant motivation and satisfy the need for almost instant gratification without bankrupting our finances?
I believe a Token Economy best suits the needs of children with Aspergers Syndrome. A Token Economy is a system where the Asperger child earns tokens as a reward for desired behaviours or actions. A predetermined number of tokens are then exchanged or “cashed in” for an item or activity the Asperger child desires.
A Token Economy is flexible and can be easily tailored to suit the individual needs of a child with Aspergers Syndrome, and importantly, their individual desires – what motivates them.
Token Economies that use money tokens seem to be the most successful with Aspergers Syndrome children in increasing their ability to delay gratification, and lessening the risk of satiation (overuse of a reward can result in the child no longer viewing it as a reward). Using money in a Token Economy negates the need for the Asperger child to decode an abstract concept, as in the ‘real’ world people are paid money for completing tasks by way of employment.
A token economy works well with Aspergers Syndrome children at school and at home right through Elementary School, and can continue to be used successfully at home throughout High School.
Aspergers Syndrome children take a long time establish trust, and for this reason a token economy should focus on rewarding desired behaviours and actions. Once the program has been established for a number of years, you may then be able to introduce “fines” or response costs, where the Aspergers Syndrome child is fined for inappropriate behaviour. This correlates the Token Economy program with real-world experiences for Aspergers Syndrome children – if I drive too fast, I get a speeding fine; if I park where I shouldn’t, I get a parking fine. However, the focus of the program must be on the positives, because children with Aspergers Syndrome are prone to quickly losing their motivation and trust.
Be creative with the reinforcers offered as motivation for AS children. Offering a ‘menu’ of rewards to choose from seems most successful. Initially for children with Aspergers Syndrome “cashed in” rewards need to be fairly instant i.e. at the end of each day. Over time this can be stretched to the end of each week. As the AS child matures this delayed gratification may be able to be stretched to a month or term, however small rewards and motivators should be offered consistently along the way.
As with all strategies used with Aspergers Syndrome children, patience and perseverance are the keys to success when using a Token Economy – but the rewards for both participants and facilitators are immense!
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